The Breastfeeding Conspiracy: Breastfeeding and the Environment

We’re linking up with the Breastfeeding Blog Hop again! We’re joining Life with Levi, The Slacker Mom, and Diary of a Devil Dog Wife this week to talk about breastfeeding and the environment.


When I found out that this week’s topic was breastfeeding and the environment, my first thought was of course I’m helping the environment! Even with my manual pump and few bottles, I’m saving lots of energy and resources that are necessary to manufacture and distribute hundreds of formula cans that I’d be using otherwise.

And then I looked at the numbers, just for fun.

The average amount spent on formula per month ranges from $146 to $210, depending on where you live and any coupons you use. I just want to point out that I haven’t even spent that much on the little extras I have for breastfeeding. For. realz.

That alone is enough to make me pause. But then I found the cost benefits of formula on Um…wow.

“A minimum of $3.6 billion would be saved if breastfeeding were increased from current levels (64 percent in-hospital, 29 percent at 6 months) to those recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General (75 and 50 percent). This figure is likely an underestimation of the total savings because it represents cost savings from the treatment of only three childhood illnesses: otitis media, gastroenteritis, and necrotizing enterocolitis. This report reviews breastfeeding trends and previous studies that assessed the economic benefits of breastfeeding.”

The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Review and Analysis by Jon Weimer. ERS Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. 13. 20 pp, March 2001.

“Total Annual Cost of not Breastfeeding: $1.186 to $1.301 Billion”

Cost Benefits of Breastfeeding (1997) by Karen M. Zeretzke, MEd, IBCLC

sources and quotes from KellyMom. I recommend reading all the quotes listed!

Just those two facts alone are mind boggling! A minimum of $3.6 billion would be saved from treating only three childhood illnesses? Also that the total annual cost of not breastfeeding was so high in 1997! Can you imagine what it is today??

The fact is that our impact on the environment isn’t found only in limiting our resource consumption. It’s also seen in how we spend our money. Which sounds like the same thing, but trust me. It isn’t.

For example, Americans spend around $450 billion each year on Christmas alone. And apparently we spend at least $3.6 billion each year on not breastfeeding. Or at least we did in 2001, a decade ago. This doesn’t even include the energy and resources needed to manufacture and distribute formula!

But what if instead we spent our money, for Christmas or formula or whatever, on others? On helping other countries build their resources? Even if 100,000 women breastfed for just the first month and put what they would have spent on formula (using the lower $150) towards ending the water crisis, they would have donated $15,000,000! That’s a fair dent in the $10 billion necessary to end it forever, and it’s even more impressive when you realize that it takes only $10 to give clean water to a child for life.

Wouldn’t that be something to get attention off of formula companies? Save our resources and a child’s life! Breastfeed! Hey, it could catch on. :)


About Jeniffer

Jeniffer is planning to homeschool her children and is enjoying teachable moments with her 1-year-old and 1-month-old daughter. She loves sharing about her parenting journey, from breastfeeding to cloth diapering to pregnancy and beyond!

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  • Cheryl

    Interesting. However, I’m curious about the monthly estimate of $146-210 for formula feeding. I know where you live affects the cost and you have to factor in what formula is used, but that seems to be a really high estimate. My oldest was formula fed from six months on and we spent on average $50-70/month for formula. I understand that number doesn’t include our cost for bottles and other supplies, but I just can’t see $210/month being “average”. I am a big advocate of breastfeeding but I used to joke that breastfeeding was actually quite expensive for me. I have a very large chest when nursing, bras were ridiculously expensive, I went through nursing pads (reusable and disposable) like crazy, and I had to pay for a couple of bouts of mastitis treatment. Worth every penny and I wouldn’t change a thing, but not as cheap as I had hoped it would be! ;)

    • Jeniffer

      Cheryl, I honestly have no clue how much a monthly average spent on formula would be. :) I googled it, and those were the first numbers that I found. And yes, breastfeeding can be much more expensive than it has been for me. I happen to have only had a couple of hiccups along the way (so far!). Definitely nothing that would be comparable to using formula. :) Every situation is different, which is probably why the researchers chose to compare the childhood illnesses that formula feeding can cause instead of the amount spent annually on breastfeeding versus formula feeding. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  • Gaby @ Green Baby DS Blog

    Wow. Whenever I see someone buying formula at the store for $25 a pop, I’m so glad I can use that money for beer–er… for helping end the water crisis.

    In all seriousness, I am so strapped for cash that formula is not an option. I’m even on WIC, and I get extra food for both myself and my baby since I’m exclusively breastfeeding! Hooray! And I still donate a few bucks to charity when I’m presented with the opportunity :)

    • Jeniffer

      Haha! I definitely know the feeling! While I would love to say that I donate what I don’t use, but that’s far from the truth. There’s hardly any left over after the bills have been paid and food is on the table. But when I have the chance, I definitely plan to. :)

  • Jen – Life With Levi

    Wow, that’s huge!! I totally forgot about the worldwide health cost implications when I wrote my post. You rock for sharing this information. Thank you!!

    • Jeniffer

      Jen, I’m not gonna lie. My husband pointed that out to me when I told him this week’s topic. He’s pretty awesome. :D

  • BeingMama

    Wonderful! I love how these often ignored benefits of breastfeeding are being discussed! It’s a multi-faceted issue, as you point out. What a huge benefit to families and to our environment.